Hobo

The July afternoon air was warm, and the sun peeked from behind a massive cloud above the city.  Margie was late. She’d promised her co-workers she’d meet them at the bar promptly at 3pm for their Thirsty Thursday happy hour. Having just closed her first advertising deal at the television station where she worked, she knew they’d understand – and the cocktails would flow in celebration whilst everyone discussed their predictions for the Y2K fallout.

The last few months had been a struggle. Moving back to Michigan from the west coast was another interruption to getting her life back on track, but it an important one. Making sure Emma could grow up with both parents around, and with Callum happy to be back among extended family, she knew she’d made the right choice. Not to mention, her job really was a lot of fun, with the potential of a promising career ahead of her. Finally.

Margie remembered to change her shoes to flats once she exited her building, depositing her heels into a sleek, patent leather tote. She walked quickly, with a bit of a bounce to her step, smiling at other pedestrians as she crossed the street. To her left, a mother and daughter were arguing about school clothes shopping. Margie smiled at the thought – wondering if she’ll have those conversations with her own daughter one day.  To her right, the bus stop.  A gazebo-styled shelter wherein an older, disheveled gent sat, smoking a cigarette. Margie slowed her pace for a closer look.

The man looked to be in his early to mid sixties, and was rifling through a wad of paperwork. Most likely homeless. As she passed, the man looked up and their eyes met. Margie smiled briefly and looked down to break the gaze.

As she continued walking down the block, she felt a wash of familiarity. A cold prickling sensation ran up her spine, as she stopped in her tracks.  Those eyes.

Slowly, she turned back around toward the man, cocking her head slightly.  He was still watching her.

She shook her head side to side, frantically as she walked back to him.

“Dad?”

Margie’s father, Jack, smiled in relief as she approached.

“What…what are you doing here?” Margie’s face was incredulous as she took in the sight of him, her voice high-pitched and wavering. She hadn’t seen Jack in almost five years, at her wedding. He’d disappeared shortly after showing up at her wedding absolutely intoxicated.

He looked nothing like the person she’d met all those years ago. He smelled, his clothes were filthy, fingers stained with nicotine because he continued to smoke filterless cigarettes.

Margie was speechless.

“I recognized you right away, my don’t you look spiffy!  Look at you all dressed up, you are beautiful.”

Margie blushed and smiled, before changing her features back to business.

“What are you doing here?” Margie realized it was a central point in the city, the downtown mall area, but still, the timing was suspicious.

“I’m waiting for the bus, what does it look like I’m doing?”

Margie smiled, and paused, waiting for further explanation.  He knew what she meant.

The last time they spoke was on the phone, he had said he needed to go away for a while.  Margie surmised he meant “jail”, however, upon questioning, he wouldn’t admit to anything. Only making a promise that he would keep in touch.

That was four years ago.

“What…Where are you going?”

He explained that he had rented a room in the northern suburbs, in a half-way house. Margie nodded, not seeking further explanation.

“I know that we have a lot to catch up on, and we will, but I ….  I want to ask you something.”

“Of course, anything.”

“Can I borrow a hundred dollars?”

Margie thought to herself. She really only had a hundred dollars in her bank account, and wouldn’t get paid until Tuesday.

“What do you need it for?” Margie asked suspiciously.

“I need to give it to the house manager by today, otherwise I’m out.”

“Oh.”  The struggle in her mind was clear on her face.

“I will pay you back tomorrow, I promise. I get paid tomorrow.  But the manager, he says he needs it today. He’s just another asshole.”

Margie slowly nodded, and looked at Jack sadly.  She hadn’t seen him in years, and was disappointed that their reunion involved a request for money. Especially when she didn’t really have much.

“Okay.” She nodded, “Come with me to the ATM. But you promise, I can get it back tomorrow?”

“Ah, sweetie, that’s terrific.  Yes, yes.  Well, if I can’t get back up here tomorrow, I will meet you someplace this weekend. Okay?”

Margie nodded slowly. The doubt was evident on her face as the two walked over one block to her bank’s ATM.

She handed the money to Jack, and he kissed her gingerly on the cheek as he ran back to the gazebo, his bus now approaching.

Jack came through, however. The next day he showed up at her work - showered, and wearing clean clothes - cash in hand.

They met several times after that. Margie introduced him to his granddaughter, Emma, and Callum eyed him suspiciously, not forgetting Jack’s antics at his parent’s wedding.

On one occasion, Jack sat Margie down and set a pamphlet in front of her.

“I’ve purchased a life insurance policy with this company. It’s in your name.  $10 dollars a week will go in – not sure what the payout will be, but I just wanted you to know…someday there will be a little nest egg waiting for you.”

“Stop it dad. How can you even think about an insurance policy until you get back on your feet?”

He just smiled at her and pressed the pamphlet in her hand.

That was the last time they saw each other.

Shortly after that, Margie’s life fell apart again.  Trust broken.  A friendship lost through manipulation and control. Margie’s relationship with Tom sent her reeling, giving up her son to his father, Michael in La Jolla, during a fit of despair, and, regretting her decision; sending her after him to renegotiate with nothing but the clothes on her back. A futile effort, that Margie didn’t even attempt to renegotiate, given her newly acquired Hobo status.

She never heard from Jack again.

 

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